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Opinion

The Long History of American Voter Fraud

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Like all forms of government, democracies consist entirely of sinners.

In fact, this universal human susceptibility to temptation explains why the United States has such a lengthy history of election integrity-related issues.

We were reminded of this on Wednesday when Superior Court Judge William Clark invalidated the results of a Sept. 12 Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport, Connecticut, due to “shocking” evidence of ballot stuffing.

Since 2020, of course, the establishment media has sounded a relentless drumbeat against so-called “election deniers.” Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump and more than a dozen co-defendants have faced criminal charges in Georgia, merely for seeking redress of election-related grievances in that state.

The fact remains, however, that Americans try to cheat in elections. They always have. And as long as power tempts them, they always will.

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The Heritage Foundation, for instance, has compiled an extensive list of voter-fraud cases across the country. That list includes 127 cases since 2021. Nearly all resulted in criminal convictions.

In the months leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, the establishment media dutifully downplayed such evidence. NPR, for instance, made sure to smear 159 Trump-endorsed candidates as “election deniers.” Of course, it made no mention of Democrats’ repeated efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2016 election.

NPR did offer a lame acknowledgment of questions surrounding the integrity of the 1960 presidential election. In that year, Democrat John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican Richard Nixon in a contest plagued by credible accusations of cheating, particularly in Chicago.

Even 1960, however, does not constitute a “long” history. For that, we must venture much further into the American past.

Is voter fraud a serious problem?

For instance, not many people know the story of the 1890 U.S. Census.

In a 1996 article published in the National Archives and Records Administration’s “Prologue” magazine, archivist Kellee Blake explained what happened to the records from that census and why they proved so controversial.

Blake called it a “complex tale” filled with “demands for recounts” and a process “mired in fraud and political intrigue.” Tammany Hall, New York City’s notorious Democratic political machine, reportedly paid well for inflated counts in certain districts. After all, more people meant more political power relative to others.

Furthermore, “New York State officials were accused of bolstering census numbers,” Blake wrote, “and the intense business competition between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, resulted in no fewer than nineteen indictments against Minneapolis businessmen for allegedly adding more than 1,100 phony names to the census.”

As fate would have it, a 1921 fire destroyed many of those 1890 census records.

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Still, memories of rampant fraud lingered, and that negative perception found its way into popular culture. In Caleb Carr’s 1994 novel, “The Alienist,” set in late 19th-century New York City, a serial child killer gained access to victims by working as a census-taker in immigrant neighborhoods.

Decades earlier, the federal government created a recipe for fraud when it left the question of slavery open to the people of the western territories. Emigrants to Kansas Territory tried to settle that question first, in some cases by whatever means necessary.

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 banned slavery in nearly all territories acquired from France in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. In 1854, however, Congress repealed that Compromise by passing the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Under the guise of promoting “democracy,” Democrats demanded that the people of those territories should vote on slavery.

At Lecompton, Kansas, in 1857, pro-slavery settlers used every manner of fraud to secure a pro-slavery state constitution. John Calhoun — not to be confused with the famous Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina — played a leading role.

The Kansas Historical Society described John Calhoun as a “notorious figure involved with election fraud related to the Lecompton Constitution.” Calhoun, in fact, “directed his clerk to bury fake ballots in a wooden box, thereby hiding them from free-state investigators.”

Democratic President James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, however, proceeded as if nothing fraudulent had occurred.

“I have received from J. Calhoun, esq., president of the late constitutional convention of Kansas, a copy, duly certified by himself, of the constitution framed by that body, with the expression of a hope that I would submit the same to the consideration of Congress ‘with the view of the admission of Kansas into the Union as an independent State,'” Buchanan wrote in an 1858 message to Congress.

Buchanan — a spineless nincompoop — wanted the Kansas question settled as quickly as possible. So he accepted Calhoun’s “certification.”

Congress then deliberated and rejected the Lecompton Constitution. Evidence of fraud proved too overwhelming. More than 1,600 Kansas ballots, for instance, featured “voter” names copied from the city directory of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nonetheless, had Buchanan prevailed, voter fraud would have made Kansas a slave state.

Finally, one of the most brazen and surprising examples of attempted “election interference” dates to the early republic. In fact, it involved several Founding Fathers.

A spring 1800 election in New York City cost the Federalist Party dearly. This meant that a legislature favorable to Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party likely would choose New York’s slate of presidential electors.

To forestall this catastrophe, Alexander Hamilton wrote to New York Governor and fellow Federalist John Jay with an idea, “namely the immediate calling together of the existing Legislature.”

“I am aware that there are weighty objections to the measure; but the reasons for it appear to me to outweigh the objections. And in times like these in which we live, it will not do to be overscrupulous,” Hamilton added.

Hamilton believed that Jefferson’s Republicans would undermine the Union and far worse.

“Tis a composition indeed of very incongruous materials but all tending to mischief — some of them to the overthrow of the Government by stripping it of its due energies others of them to a Revolution after the manner of Buonaparte,” Hamilton wrote of the Republicans.

Hamilton, of course, thought he had good reason to suggest interference in New York’s election. After all, he regarded his political opponents as potential insurrectionists.

Upon receiving Hamilton’s extraordinary letter, Jay made a note at the bottom of the page.

“Proposing a measure for party purposes wh. I think it wd. not become me to adopt,” the principled governor wrote.

In sum, government officials and private citizens alike have often succumbed to the temptations of voter fraud and election interference.

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Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.
Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.




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